Pulling out the flask on the 5 (and other bus boozing)

jim-beam-hip-flaskI’ve noticed a lot more substance abuse on Muni lately. I’m not talking about the teenagers smoking pot or even drunk USF frat boys on a Friday night. I’m talking about morning and evening rush hour, regular-looking adults boozing it up on the bus. It started a few weeks ago on my evening commute home on the 5. This late-twenties-looking redheaded guy in hipster work attire busted out a flask. Now, since a flask is classier than a brown bag and it was the evening I guess he can be excused. I know I enjoy a glass of red wine with dinner. Maybe he was just getting a head start.

Then last week the morning substance abuse started to appear. I was on the 30 heading down to SoMa. Sitting across from me was a perfectly upstanding-looking, 50-something man who appeared to be on his way to work. Then what did he pull from his messenger bag, not an iPhone or a muffin, but a wine cooler. A fuzzy navel, bright orange, enjoyed by 18-year-old girls, wine cooler. At first I was unsure what it was, since I don’t think I’ve seen a wine cooler in 6 years, but it was Bartels and James in its full glory. He meticulously wrapped a paper towel around it and began sipping away. When I relayed the story to a co-worker, she responded quickly, “It’s the economy, he probably doesn’t have a job.” I can’t say I agreed at the time, if I didn’t have a job and I had a drinking problem I would be in bed on Tuesday morning at 9 a.m., but I’ve never been a morning person.

Fast-forward to Thursday morning, the 5-Fulton heading downtown. I took my usual seat in the back of the bus and was immediately overwhelmed by the stench of pot. It was obviously coming from the back row of people. The smell came and went throughout the 30-minute ride, but was so strong I was afraid of a contact high (and the consequences of showing up to a meeting smelling of pot).

Maybe my co-worker was right, maybe the economy has driven people to drink (or smoke) and ride. Are people so depressed about their finances or paranoid about being laid off that they can’t wait to drown their sorrows on Friday night like the rest of us? Maybe they are, or maybe I’ve just noticed the usual train wrecks a lot more lately. But as I got on my second bus Thursday morning, it smelled deliciously of Krispy Kreme donuts, and after that first bus ride, I found myself craving an old-fashioned.

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